There were so many times during my Appalachian Trail hike when I would suddenly be overcome with feelings of joy and the sense that I was exactly where I was meant to be. I mean, tears-streaming-down-my-face joy.
I had to be careful because it could happen at any moment. (Careful because people can be suspicious of other people who just burst into tears for no apparent reason.)
It happened while I walked through a beautiful meadow as the rising sun burned off the mist.
It happened when I caught a moonset after hiking out by headlamp in the early hours of the morning.
It happened while I stood on a cliff watching a peregrine falcon ride the updrafts up and over my head and on into the next valley.
It happened when someone handed me a cheeseburger at a trailhead in Gorham, New Hampshire, after I officially recognized thru-hiking as the hardest, and best, thing I’d ever done. (Thanks, White Mountains!)
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about those many moments of joyful tears during my pilgrimage. I’ve noticed how the sense of being exactly where I’m meant to be has followed me back into so-called “real life,” which is different now.
Because I’m different.
Unwilling to do anything that doesn't make me feel like I'm exactly where I'm meant to be, that doesn't have to potential to make me shed those tears of joy.
One of the great benefits of long distance hiking, for me, was that the process of hiking reset my priorities.
It utterly and unquestionably realigned my soul with Spirit’s intentions for me and my life.